A Conversion Story

“Why Not Now?”Confessions (World's Classics)

I probed the hidden depths of my soul and wrung its pitiful secrets from it, and when I mustered them all before the eyes of my heart, a great storm broke within me. Somehow I flung myself down beneath a fig tree and gave way to the tears which now streamed from my eyes. For I felt that I was still the captive of my sins, and in misery I kept crying, “How long shall I go on saying, ‘Tomorrow, tomorrow’? Why not now? Why not make an end of my ugly sins at this moment?”

I was asking myself these questions, weeping all the while with the most bitter sorrow in my heart, when all at once I heard the singing of a child in a nearby house. Whether it was the voice of a boy or a girl I cannot say, but again and again it repeated the refrain, “Take it and read, take it and read.”

…I stemmed my flood of tears and stood up, telling myself that this could only be a divine command to open my book of Scripture and read…so I hurried back to the place where I had put down the book containing Paul’s epistles. I seized it and opened it, and in silence I read…“Not in revelling and drunkenness, not in lust and wantonness, not in quarrels and rivalries. Rather, arm yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ; spend no more thought on nature and nature’s appetites” (Rom 13:13-14).

…In an instant, as I came to the end of the sentence, it was as though the light of confidence flooded into my heart and all the darkness of doubt was dispelled…You converted me to Yourself, so that I no longer placed any hope in this world but stood firmly upon the rule of faith.

~ from Confessions, by St. Augustine of Hippo,

in Devotional Classics: Selected Readings,

ed. Richard J. Foster and James Bryan Smith



“This Principle of Pure Love”Christian Perfection

We must rejoice that God has performed his will in us, and that he reigns within us, not for our happiness, nor for our perfection because it is ours, but for God’s good pleasure and for his pure glory.

…God, who wants to strip the soul to perfect it, and will pursue it relentlessly toward a purer love, makes it really pass these tests of itself, and does not let it rest until it has taken away all reversion and all self-support from its love. Nothing is so jealous, so severe, and so sensitive as this principle of pure love. It is like the gold which is purified in the crucible. The fire consumes all that is not pure gold. We must also make crucibles of our entire hearts, to purify the divine love.

~ from Christian Perfection, by François Fénelon,

in Devotional Classics: Selected Readings,

ed. Richard J. Foster and James Bryan Smith


Into a Dark Night

“Unless God Works Passively”Dark Night of the Soul: A Masterpiece in the Literature of Mysticism by St. John of the Cross

Let it suffice to say, then, that God perceives the imperfections within us, and because of his love for us, urges us to grow up. His love is not content to leave us in our weakness, and for this reason he takes us into a dark night. He weans us from all of the pleasures by giving us dry times and inward darkness.

In doing so he is able to take away all these vices and create virtues within us. Through the dark night pride becomes humility, greed becomes simplicity, wrath becomes contentment, luxury becomes peace, gluttony becomes moderation, envy becomes joy, and sloth becomes strength. No soul will ever grow deep in the spiritual life unless God works passively in that soul by means of the dark night.

 ~ from The Dark Night of the Soul, by St. John of the Cross,

in Devotional Classics: Selected Readings,

ed. Richard J. Foster and James Bryan Smith


Busy Bees

“They Change It into Honey”

Introduction to the Devout LifeThe worlds sees devout people as they pray, fast, endure injuries, take care of the sick, give alms to the poor, keep vigils, restrain anger, control their passions, give up sensual pleasures, and perform other actions that are rigorous in themselves and by their very nature.

But the world does not see the heartfelt devotion that renders all such actions pleasant, sweet, and easy. Look at the bees amid the banks of thyme. They find there a very bitter juice, but when they suck it out, they change it into honey because they have the ability to do so.

O worldly people! It is true that devout souls encounter great bitterness in their works of mortification, but by performing them they change them into something more sweet and delicious. Because the martyrs were devout men and women, fire, flame, wheel, and sword seemed to be flowers and perfume to them. If devotion can sweeten the most cruel torments and even death itself, what must it do for virtuous actions?

…Sugar sweetens green fruit and in ripe fruit corrects  whatever is crude and unwholesome. Now devotion is true spiritual sugar for it removes bitterness from discipline and anything harmful from consolations.

~ from Introduction to the Devout Life, by Francis De Sales,

in Devotional Classics: Selected Readings,

ed. Richard J. Foster and James Bryan Smith